Deckard🥃’s review published on Letterboxd:
Film 34 in the 2014 Halloween Film Fest
"This is a game. All of this is for you. You're not investigating anything. You're a fucking rat in a maze. "
Martin Scorsese's Shutter Island is a film I've never been able to get past thirty minutes without being interrupted by something. It's always been able to grab a hold of my attention, but I've never been able to finish it. Well on this cold, stormy Halloween night, I was finally able to, and I have to say that I'm rather pleased with the full film. What starts out like a by the book mystery film with traces of film noir and horror quickly turns into a psychological horror/thriller and just takes you on a ride through insanity. Martin Scorsese is one of the finest American director's in the history of cinema, and this is a film that just further proves how much of a master he is.
Two U.S. Marshall's, Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule (Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, respectively) are traveling to Asheclife Hospital on Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of patient Rachel Solando (Emiliy Mortimer). With psychiatrist, Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), refusing to hand over necessary records to help with the investigation, the two begin to dig deeper into the investigation (all while Teddy has his own agenda of looking for Andrew Laeddis [Elias Koteas]) and begin to unravel a web of lies and conspiracies. All of which causes Teddy to question his own sanity and the truth; if there ever was one to begin with.
SPOILERS AHEAD: READ AT YOUR OWN RISK
Shutter Island really does a brilliant job of pretending to be something (for the most part[I'll get to that later]) it isn't. Like I said in the beginning, the first half hour or so is pretty much a Mystery thriller, centered on two men looking for a woman. After that, it pretty much takes a one-eighty and changes. While there's still a clout of mystery that surrounds the hospital and the secrets on the hospital, it then focus on the mental side of one Teddy Daniels. This is where it really gets interesting. Daniels has his suspicions of secret testing, specifically that of lobotomy's being condoned at the lighthouse. So when Rachel is eventually found, now Daniels is trying to find Andrew Laeddis and uncover the truth about Shutter Island.
It isn't until he meets George Noyce (Jackie Earle Haley) where he is told that he is nothing by "a rat in a fucking maze". Once that happens, the alarms start going off and now we know, there's something up with the island and Teddy, which in turn becomes scary. Scorsese leaves subtle hints throughout that if paying close enough of attention, you'll begin to piece together the mind fuck of a puzzle Shutter Island is. Teddy Daniels isn't Teddy Daniels. Teddy Daniels is actually Andrew Laeddis and he isn't investigating anything at all. Earlier in the film Daniels says to Chuck that his wife had been killed by Laeddis and we find out that Rachel Solando was admitted to Ashecliffe for killing and drowning her three kids.
When Teddy Daniels goes to the lighthouse, where the secret testings are believed to take place his is confronted by Dr. Cawley, and then faced with the truth. Daniels is Laeddis and Solando was his wife. He was confined to Ashecliffe after killing his wife after she in turn killed their children by drowning. Why is Laeddis pretending to be Daniels? It's all a game like Noyce said. A game destined to break the conspiracy and the insanity of Laeddis and to finally come to terms for what he did and what his wife did. This is all one big game apart of the insanity that is Andrew Laeddis. While it sounds like a cop-out when the plot twist is finally revealed, it's actually delivered and executed brilliantly and takes the film to new levels.
Shutter Island features great performances from a stellar cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max Von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Ted Levine, and Patricia Clarkson, to say the least. DiCaprio's performance in this is probably one of the strongest and best with his ongoing collaboration with Scorsese, which is hard to say considering they are a terrific duo and they complement each other greatly, much like Scorsese did with De Niro back in the day. Ruffalo also delivers a fantastic performance and is charismatic with his chemistry with DiCaprio.
The film also features an impeccable atmosphere, which is very gloomy and scary at times. The tone is quite consistent as it goes from Mystery to psychological horror/thriller and never strays too far off in terms of the style that the film is. It's also visually appealing to the sense as it has just as much as atmospheric style to it as the entire film does as a whole. It's perfectly shot and showcases the fearful and terrifying sides of the film very, very well. And of course, like all other Scorsese films, it's paced and edited masterfully, and the music selection really makes the film just as scary as the subject matter present.
While I'm not too keen on the hint dropping by Scorsese, there is certainly no denying that Shutter Island is one of the best films of the man's filmography. It's taking something that can be seen as Hitchcockian, but having Scorsese throw his own visual style and directorial mastery into effect, thus creating a near perfect, Martin Scorsese psychological horror/thriller. Shutter Island really is outstanding.
"Which would be worse - to live as a monster? Or to die as a good man? "